Sunday, August 24, 2008

Red, White, and Whew! In a tough final, US 'Redeems" itself

It was much closer than expected but the USA Men’s Basketball team “Redeemed” itself after the 2004 debacle with a 118-107 victory of the defending World Champion Spain in a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated. The US had it largest deficit of the tournament in the early in the first quarter when they found themselves down by five points and with Kobe and King James on the bench with 2 fouls, but came back to take an 11 point lead largely due to the performance of Duane Wade, but lead by less than 10 at half, their smallest half-time lead of the tournament. Spain, who was the worst 3-point shooting team of the medal round at 30%, played like Villanova in the 84’ championship game raining 3’s and cut the lead to 2 points inside eight minutes to play. On a team full of superstars it was the NBA’s MVP who stepped up and took over the game. Kobe scored on a runner, a four-point play that fouled out Spain’s leading scorer and playmaker, and proceeded to score or assist on the next 14 US points. The lead oscillated between 6-8 but ended up at eleven. After beating Spain by 37 points in the qualifying round, you knew Spain would come swinging with reckless abandon but you figured the deep US team would wear them down. It didn’t really play out that way but they held on when they had to and close the show, but that wide margin is gone and from here on out each world tournament will be a war.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Team Redeem’s table is ‘Finals’ set

The USA Basketball team came out with fire in their eyes, played tenacious D, buried Argentina early, and then held on the rest of the way to secure their place in the Gold Medal Game. The US built a 21-point lead early in the second quarter and then were aided when Manu Ginobli went down with an injury, not to return. The Redeem Team seemed to relax and Argentina cut the lead down to six but after a Coach K timeout, the lead went back to double digits was never less than 13 the rest of the way. TR will face Spain in the Finals on Sunday, a team that they blew out in pool play. If the US play the type of defense they put on Spain the first time around when they forced 24 TURNOVERS, this one won’t be close. To make matters worse for the defending World Champions might be without the services of their point guard Jose Calderon, who sat out the semi-final game against Lithuania. In addition to blowing teams out on the court the US has spent their ‘off time’ going to matches of other athletes, doing charity work, including visiting the children’s hospital of the earthquake victims, helping to raise $500,000. They have not only performed on the court but been diplomats for the game and the country. There is one last piece of business to take care of and that will done over lunch on Sunday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Phelps has golden touch, World is witness to a Bolt of lightning

Michael Phelps swam into history during the games of the XXIX Olympiad with a total of eight gold medals eclipsing the mark set by Mark Spitz 36 years ago, and not without his share of close calls. In a time span that does not amount to much more than the blink of an eye, Phelps fulfilled a half-rotation before Milorad Cavic of Serbia could stretch, extend, and float to the wall. Despite a post-match protest and thanks to the slow motion photos provided by Sports Illustrated, as improbable as it looked in live action MP did beat him to the wall. Marc Lifsher said it best, as 100 minus 0.01 equals eight. So how does this rank among the best ever Olympic performances? Put another way, is Phelps the greatest Olympic athlete ever?

While the waves were calming in the water on land things were electric as Usain ”lightning” Bolt won the 100-meter dash in a world-record time of 9.69. However in all actuality he really only ran the 85-meter dash as he coasted the lat 15 meters including one blown kiss and two chest pumps. He was so far ahead that once he crossed the finish line he could have got on his cell and solidified his many upcoming endorsement deals before the second place finisher crossed the same line. What’s scary to think about is how fast he COULD have run it in if he would have stayed focused through the tape? Perhaps we’ll get a glimpse in when he attempts to repeat the feat in the 200. So what to make of the US sprinters this Olympics? We are simply getting our stars & stripes whipped by the laid back, precocious, and confident crew from the Caribbean. Normally our staple events the men’s AND women’s 100 events were dominated by Jamaica, and we will not even talk about what’s happening in the boxing ring. So how did we go from dominator to dominated in four short years?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Redeem Team gets first taste of redemption

Like Michael Phelps the USA Men’s Basketball team has taken every necessary step along the way to achieving their goal of returning the gold medal to its rightful owner. One of those steps was sending a message to the team that ousted them from the 04’ games in Athens. The ‘Redeem Team’ easily beat Greece 92-69 lead by Kobe Bryant’s 50% shooting and 18 points. The NBA’s MVP had been silent in the previous two games and shooting a dismal 37% but broke out of his slump in a big way in an all important statement game. Chris Bosh also came alive, adding 18 points off the bench. Argentina also has begun to put it together with an impressive win over Croatia. It will come down to a three horse race with Pau Gasol and Spain adding to the mix, but this is the way it should be, where if the US plays its game it really doesn’t AND shouldn’t matter what anyone else does. The US is deeper and more skilled than the rest of the competition and has a coach that knows how to harness that talent. Not since the original DT has the US made it through so effortlessly. But before we start signing let’s get deep into the medal round, as we have been here before.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phelps begins his quest for immortality with a second record

Michael Phelps won the second of a sought after eight gold medals and has a debt of gratitude to Jason Lezak. The anchor on the 400-meter relay caught and passed the world record holder Alain Bernard edging him out at the end. The winning time: a world-record 3:08.24. Winning margin: eight hundredths of a second. It was the closest 400-meter relay in Olympic history and the second-closest Olympic relay of any distance. And Lezak swam the fastest 100-meter relay split in world history, a shocking 46.06 seconds. His split was faster than Bernard's by .67 seconds. When you're the world-record holder and you cannot hold a lead in your specialty, that's not good. When that happens after you've talked smack, that's worse. For the second straight Olympics it's men's Swimming that gets the competitive spirit going, similar to the "air guitar" act of the Australians pursuant to remarks by Gary Hall Jr.
Afterward I asked the French technical team director, Claude Fauquet, about Bernard's prediction. "Well," Fauquet said, "I think he got it wrong." Yea, ya think?

Jason Lezak The anchor swimmer had gone into the pool well behind Frenchman Alain Bernard, and after busting it for 50 meters had not appreciably closed the gap. The only comfort was that Bernard, who began this race as the world-record holder in the 100 freestyle, had not put the race out of reach -- something he all but guaranteed last week by declaring the French would "smash" the Americans in this event.

After setting an Olympic record during the qualifying heat where he said he wanted to “send a message”, Michael Phelps did it one better in during the finals of the 400-meter individual medley by setting a new world record. It was the first of a possible eight golds for Phelps that would surpass the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz in 72’. He will need some help from his teammates as they are not all individual events and the Aussies and South Africans will surely have something to say about it. The first thing he has to do to continue the quest is completely forget what he just accomplished. Roughly 7½ hours after talking to the media Sunday morning, Phelps will be back in the pool for the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle. Among those he'll face in that event is Korean Taehwan Park, who surprisingly won the 400 free Sunday morning in the sixth-fastest time ever, and the fastest time by someone not named Ian Thorpe. It’s an impossible task, but if anyone has come along in the past half-century that can ‘do the impossible’ it’s Phelps.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dream Team looks good as gold, but not without Controversy controversy

After winning their first three games by an average of 41 points, including a 21 point victory over the defending European Champion Russia, this year’s version of the “Dream Team” looks poised to take home the gold and regain respectability to the US. However it’s still three weeks before the medal ceremony and a lot can happen between now and then. Mental and physical fatigue that usually sets in at the end of a 36-day trip is still a factor that could come into play three weeks down the road. But for now, this version of Team USA appears to be morphing from a strong favorite to a prohibitive favorite as we count down the days until the Americans get to Beijing, where they'll open Olympic play Aug. 10 against Yao Ming and the Chinese national team. It has been smooth sailing thus far with the only bit of controversy coming from the fact that J Kidd did not see any action in the second half against Russia. Now the question is weather he is simply been beaten out by Chirs Paul and Deron Williams or was JK being rested? Well, if it was your club, and after CP3 destroyed Kidd in the NBA playoffs, who would you have start? To be honest this team is so good, I could start at point and we would still win by double digits.